Liam Rudden: Robin’s dead for a living at Loretto

Colin McPhail and Robin Mitchell
Colin McPhail and Robin Mitchell
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ROBIN Mitchell is the original Adam Lyal (Deceased), the white-faced ghoul that to this day leads tourists and locals alike a merry dance through the streets of the Old Town, regaling them with gruesome tales of murder, body snatching and eerie hauntings.

As one of the founding members of West Bow’s Cadies and Witchery Tours he is very much the godfather of the Capital’s Ghost Tours.

At Loretto School, Musselburgh on Wednesday night, Robin shared tales from more than three decades of sending scares and shivers down spines in this year’s Loretto Lecture, Dead for a Living.

The talk took place in the school’s iconic Pinkie House.

To be precise, it took place beneath the awe-inspiring timber ceiling of the Painted Gallery. Decorated with intricate emblems and inscriptions, this room, once used as a dormitory, is now where pupils sit their exams.

It was also the perfect setting for a talk by a man who knows more about the past than most.

Needless to say, Pinkie House is steeped in history. Built in the 16th century it was used as a field hospital during the Battle of Prestonpans and lies not far from the site of the Battle of Pinkie.

Once home to a young Bonnie Prince Charlie, like all the best historic piles it has its very own ghost, Green Jean, although headmaster Dr Graham RW Hawley revealed he is yet to meet her.

Ghosts, however, did play a part in Robin’s presentation, as he recalled the eight crossroads in his life that brought him to where he is today - a published author, playwright and BAFTA-nominated film-maker.

Each crossroad took the form of a person. Someone who had set him on a specific path. Interrupting proceedings along the way, ghosts from the past appeared, with hilarious effect.

Dressed like Dracula - which it’s unlikely Adam Lyal ever did - Robin told of how he was once stopped by a police officer while so attired, having to explain what he was doing in the days before tour guides were a common sight on the Royal Mile.

That he was accompanied by a Mad Monk probably didn’t help.

And talking of mad monks, it was Robin who invented the ‘jumper-ooter’ - when a colleague in costume unexpectedly appears mid-tour to raise the fright factor.

The night his group was approached by a female wielding a meat cleaver was scarier than most, however.

It wasn’t in the script. The crowd thought it was and Robin’s shouts of ‘Run’ went unheeded, initially at least.

Revealing a calling card case made out of the skin of body snatcher William Burke, just sent an additional chill through the air.

Enjoying some hospitality afterwords, I recalled another of Loretto’s claims to fame. The school was used as a location in Glenn Chandler’s Taggart episode Out Of Bounds, which was set in a public school - Glenn himself played the school chaplain.

There’s been a murder! It’s a catchphrase that perfectly suits Robin’s Witchery tales too.